These Year in Reviews are not, what I call, official “reviews”. They are a series of musings, learned lessons and stories of what I experienced through out the year. Of course, reviews are featured but they are blended in with everything. It’s a director’s commentary of my adventures during the year of 2018 in the Michigan Geek Scene.
Here lies the final edition of the 2018 Year in Review series. Everything in this article is related to the Grand Rapids Comic Con. I hope you enjoy the final behind the scenes stories of 2018.
Derek is Grand Rapids’ own Dragon Ball Scholar. I talked with him at the GR Comic Con in 2017 and stayed in contact with him. While conversing online, he made the suggestion for an interview. I admired the direct approach. Normally, I shoot people down when they put me on the spot for an interview because I don’t do cold interviews. I told him that it would be a possibility down the road since he was an interesting person following his dream. Fast forward to 2018, he was a literary guest at the GR Comic Con. I figured the time would be right for an interview with him, so I reached out and he was down for it.
On the way to his house, my Tom Tom was way off. It directed me to a place that was nowhere near his home. I don’t like being late to an interview, let alone anything. Fortunately, he was understanding when I finally arrived. Once inside, I proceeded to bump into a table and trip over an air vent while setting up. You would think that one who pays attention to his surroundings while outside wouldn’t be such a clumsy oaf inside someone else’s house. Talk about good impressions. I could only imagine what he thinking. Thankfully, it was smooth sailing from that point on once the interview started. Derek seemed nervous at first but he relaxed shortly thereafter. While I was interested in talking about Dragon Ball, it’s not my favorite anime series of all time. I wanted to pick his brains about other anime series that he enjoyed and martial arts. We dove into detail about both topics along with a myriad of others. I was not expecting Carpenter Brut to come up in an interview at all. How often do I get to talk about a band that writes 80s synth soundtracks to movies that don’t exist? Next to never. Derek was a fascinating person to learn about and a pleasure to interview. Plus, his couch was super comfortable too. I would recommend his books to anyone with an interest in Dragon Ball.
Grand Rapids Comic Con 2018
K Lynn Smith is a great artist with a great sense of humor. Before I get into that, I must preface this scenario with a brief story. In 2017. I took a photo of her at the Grand Rapids Comic Con. We thought it was hilarious when she posed as a glamour shot model for the photo. I stated that I might turn it into a big poster for her. She laughed because she thought I was joking. Hell, I thought I was joking too. As it got closer to the comic con, I was laughing at the concept of this huge poster with her face on it. That was enough to make me splurge for the 20x24in printing of my photo. The look on her face when I delivered the image to her was priceless. It was well worth the cost of the photo. Suffice to say, she was embarrassed because of how ridiculous the situation was. Did she have that photo proudly displaying on her banner? No, of course not. Who in their right mind would have a random glamour shot, with no context, hanging on their banner? Throughout the weekend, whenever mutual friends would come to her table, I would ask her if she showed them the photo. They would say no and she would bring it out while enduring a lot of laughter. She was a great sport about it and I have no idea what happened to that photo after the con. She probably will kill me down the road. If I go missing, ask her questions first.
Overall, I’m happy with this interview. This is one that I wished I would’ve had more time but I can’t complain. Due to the time constraints, I had to cut out a lot of questions. While 15 minutes is nice, half an hour gives more time for a natural conversation. I wish I would’ve skipped certain questions (pro wrestling) and asked other ones from my list (more video game stuff). All in all, Elizabeth was super nice and I would gladly do another interview again since I have left over topics to dive into. I’m really looking forward to checking out her new show, Cannon Busters, when it comes out.
When he was announced, David Hayter was the one person that I wanted to interview out of all of the guests. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly enjoyed his performance as Solid Snake and Old Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series. Fun fact, I think that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the best. I had a special introduction in mind when I knew that he was coming to Grand Rapids. I figured I would begin the interview in Japanese since he’s fluent in Japanese and went to high school in Kobe, Japan. Huge shout out to Mei for helping me translate my normal intro.
As you might of guessed by now, I began the interview in Japanese. I know he wasn’t expecting it and I think he realized that it wasn’t going to be one of those typical interviews that he was used to. I’m glad I got to dive into his live action work with Devil’s Mile, Fare Trade and Wolves. Since he wrote the screenplays for X-Men, X-2, and Watchmen, I had to pick his brains about comic books and manga. Watching him geek out about Stephen King and his work made me smile. Look at the reaction on his face when I brought up Night Shift. I saw that punk music didn’t come up in interviews with him, so I’m glad I got the opportunity to talk with him about the topic. When David signed off with one Solid Snake’s signature lines, it was a nice way to end the interview. By far, my favorite interview of the whole weekend.
David signed my press badge. As he was prepping to leave the convention, I went up to say good bye and one last thanks for the fun interview. He told me that he appreciated that I did my research and that I asked interesting questions. He offered to sign my press badge and I initially declined because I never ask for autographs or photos with the guests that I interview. After he offered again, I didn’t want to turn him down. It was a nice bonus.
You know you’ve done well as an interviewer when management of one guest is trying to set you up with an interview with another guest during the convention. I had to respectfully decline the opportunity because I don’t like to go into interviews cold without doing my proper research. I had two separate managers state that they wouldn’t mind working with me again with their clients. That is very validating of the hard work I put into creating my interviews. I truly appreciate the compliments. It means a lot to me.
Much to my surprise, this was the only interview that I conducted with a cosplayer ALL YEAR. Throughout my years in the convention scene, I’ve had quick conversations with James Elmer. I’ve appreciated his positive contributions to the cosplay and convention community. He truly wants to help out anyone and everyone with positive motivation no matter what their goal is. I finally got to sit down with the dude and learn more about him. Since there was no time limit, this was my longest interview of the weekend. I really enjoyed talking about Berserk with James. While I’m not one to workout, it was fascinating to learn about the muscle building community. We had a deep conversation about MMA and traditional martial arts. I popped big time when he brought up Genki Sudo, who was known for his elaborate entrances on the way to his fights. James has a great philosophy about being a respectful and good person, especially if you have a martial arts background. This was a great interview.
Here’s a blooper from the interview.
James is a good dude, in my book. Prior to the interview, I met with the manager in person to set up a time. He asked if I could email the questions to him ahead of time. Since I already had the questions printed out, he asked to see them and he took a photo of them. I will admit that I was a little bummed when he took the photo. Sure, the guests always have the option of looking over my questions before the interview but I prefer spontaneity instead of prepared answers. What can you do? Thankfully, I haven’t had to show my questions off often. I can understand where the manager was coming from because I’m an unknown journalist. The manager liked what he saw and we set up a time. Before we began, I asked James if he saw the questions and he didn’t. Game on.
I was happy to have a fun interview with him without rehearsed answers. He asked me what my favorite webcomics were. (Perri Bible Fellowship is one of them, if you are interested.) Mid interview, James remarked about my research as I asked him a deep cut question. I liked that we both mocked the typical questions heard in every interview. After the interview, the manager gave me a copy of James’ book and James signed it. I was surprised by the nice gesture. It was really nice when both James and the manager told me that it was one the best interviews that they’ve done in a long time. It was cool to interview him and I was thankful for the opportunity. Like I said, good dude.
I had quite the surprise with the reception to this interview. When I released it in early December, it didn’t really gain any traction. I figured that the most popular guest with the longest line at the Comic Con would garner some attention. It was quite the opposite. It barely hit 40 views in the first two weeks. It made sense after I thought about it. James’ target audience was the kids to teens demographic. They’re not really known to seek out interviews, last time I checked. I wasn’t expecting a fraction of his 9 million subscribers to check out my interview. I just chalked the situation up to another fun interview with very little (viewership) attention after the fact. Then, the Grand Rapids Comic Con shared my interview with James during the week of Christmas. Viewership took off afterward. In less than 2 weeks, it jumped to 900 views. James even commented on my video to thank me for having him on and for asking unique questions. A solid endorsement, if I do say so myself. I believe he is the first person that I’ve interviewed to personally leave a comment on one of my videos.
A person by the name of Michael Lin congratulated me on my 300th subscriber. I wasn’t aware that I reached that personal milestone until they told me.
I attended the Drink and Draw, hosted by Comics Pros & Cons, held at the Atwater Brewery. Comfort and Adam, Will Jones, Seth Damoose, Jay Jacot, CR Warner, Milena Deneno and Dan Dougherty were just a few names among the bevy of artists who attended this fun charity fundraiser. All of the commissions were either $10 for a headshot or $20 for a full body. All of the proceeds were going to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. While not an artist myself, it was nice sitting down amongst my friends and catching up. Since this was the inaugural event, I can count on more to come.
The Harp Twins
Before I talk about this interview, I would like to give a shout out to Dirk Manning for setting up the professional introduction between myself and the Harp Twins. He’s a good dude who gives back to the community that supports him. I appreciated his help and kind words. Go check out his numerous comic books here. Now, back to the commentary.
This final interview of the convention almost didn’t happen. The original location was too cold and too noisy, by the time the interview was going to take place, after the end of the convention. I requested that we relocate to the lobby of the Amyway Grand Hotel to film the interview and Camille and Kennerly were game. I decided to get everything set up while they were tearing down their booth. Considering that I conducted an interview in the Amway Grand before, I didn’t think there wouldn’t be any issues. Wrong. While I was setting up in front of a couch, hotel security approached me and asked what I was doing. After I explained what I was doing, the two security guards (Matt and Jesse) were completely cool with it. They had every right to say no to the interview being filmed on the premises but they allowed it. A Massive thanks goes to them.
Once Camille and Kennerly arrived, we sat down and knocked out an interview that was close to 20 minutes. It was cool picking their brains about music, especially folk and power metal. I get excited when I get to talk to fellow metal heads. I’m sure they don’t get asked about black metal in interviews. I feel the conversation had a nice flow through the other topics such as exploring ruins, nature, and their upcoming comic book The Legend of the Shaders. It was a great interview to end my time at the Grand Rapids Comic Con. I would gladly interview these two again down the road.
When the Harp Twins and Dirk Manning shared the interview personally and gave it their seal of approval, I saw a nice boost in viewership. Their fans were very kind with their comments about the interview.
2018 was a great ride. I experienced more ups than downs during this awesome year. Experience points were gained, friendships were formed and lessons were learned throughout the year. Thanks for reading my monolith of a year in review series. I’m glad that I saw this series to the very end. I learned a lot about myself and it was fun revisiting my many adventures. I look forward to what awaits me in the years to come.